Burnley Counselling Services
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My thoughts on COVID - A Psychological and Spiritual Perspective.
I don't usually get involved with #worldmentalhealtday, I'm not a fan of 'days' for things (not averse to Birthdays though, especially as I have a special one coming up).
However, due to the unusual times we find ourselves in, I felt compelled to write something to share a bit of my experience of COVID and some insight into my understanding on a psychological and spiritual level of what's going on. It's a long read, grab a cuppa and settle down.
From the start, once we became aware of the impact of this novel virus on the world's health and economy, I viewed it as an opportunity for us to take a step back and take stock of where we are, more on an individual basis than a global one, although one effects the other.
It's so often the case that we need a sharp wake up call before most of us think about what we do everyday and why we do it, could we do things differently and what can we do to improve our lives? From that perspective, lockdown was a gift, but that does not mean it was going to be a pleasant experience for all. Far from it.
My Mum unfortunately caught COVID in her care home and passed away in hospital on 1st April. As has been mine and others' experience, the 'care' at the Royal Blackburn Hospital was appalling just at a time when we were being told to "Clap for our carers". I declined to take part.
I'm lucky in that my spiritual training allowed me to be with her for part of her final hours, even though I physically didn't visit the hospital. We sat together under what looked like a railway arch, she kept saying "I'm sorry" and I kept saying "It's fine, you don't need to apologise." In reality, she did have quite a lot to apologise for, but all the wrongs were righted and I was able to forgive her in an instant. I told her a bus would be coming to collect her at about 2am and I sat with her for a while whilst her parents turned up. Then I had to go, there was stuff she needed to deal with, people she needed to meet, parts of her life's journey she had to heal which I had no part of. I was happy to leave her then and she was smiling, so I knew I had done what I needed to do for both of us. At 2.10am I received a phone call from the hospital to inform me she had gone. Please believe me, nobody ever dies alone, ever. Not being able to be present with a loved one in their final hours has caused so much distress to many people during this pandemic but it stems really from our own misunderstanding and fear of death. Sometimes a person's final hours can seem upsetting, they may be in pain, confused, calling out for someone. What's happening on a spiritual level is quite different. It can even be the case that the soul has already gone just before the body has died. Take heart please.
Each of us will have a different experience of lock down. Some aspects were great, new friendships were formed with neighbours, new support networks were set up and most people did try and make the best of it. It was a perfect illustration of the resilience of the human spirit.
So what happened?
Fear, fear is what happened, But it wasn't fear of a virus, as those opposed to lock down were trying to state. It was a fear driven by two basic fundamentals - uncertainty and a fear of lack of resources - in most cases this was a fear of financial loss. It seemed to me though, that those who were shouting loudest were those who could afford a financial hit without ending up penniless and homeless.
Whilst there were cries of "Trashing the economy", there were thousands of people putting themselves at risk every day with very little in the way of health and safety or PPE, without anyone stopping to think about how exactly food materialises in delivery vans and supermarket shelves, or why the virus was spreading throughout care homes and hospitals.
Many of these key workers are low paid and can't afford to stay off, even if they have symptoms.
There were those who slipped through the net of the Government's support schemes, either because of how they chose to run their businesses, or because the welfare state is not fit for purpose. These again, are another unseen and unheard group.
There were calls to end the lockdown and return to normal, there was a kick back against any notion of a "New Normal". There were inaccurate claims of suicide rates being up by 200%, a notion the Samaritans had to take time out to debunk on Social Media. Did those that shared these rumours not think people would have noticed? All suspected suicides need to be registered with the Coroner and whilst face to face hearings were postponed due to the pandemic, they are still listed as cases. This was something which, with a little effort could have been researched, but instead, those with a vested, purely financial interest, wanted to project their own fear on to others. In reality, suicide rates have been rising in certain age groups long before the pandemic and will regrettably continue to do so because as a society, we are fearful of really tackling the issue head on. It's society that creates the conditions that lead to people wanting to end their lives, it is society that takes the easy option of saying "it's good to talk" and "Go and get help if you feel low" without looking any deeper into a mental health system that is failing those who most rely on it.
As humans, we have a real drive to understand the world around us, we unconsciously put people and events into little boxes, filtering out hoards of sensory information that we are bombarded with every day. Whether we use spirituality or science, we all try and make sense of the world around us, our place within it, our pasts and our futures. Which is why we can be so knocked off course by uncertainty. People go through periods of this all the time, it's a normal part of life. But what we are now being faced with, is uncertainty on a much grander scale. We are faced with the fact that science isn't black and white, it can't always provide immediate answers and solutions and the scientific community itself doesn't always agree. We are faced with political leaders who basically can't lead. Rather than admit in the early stages that they too, were uncertain, liable to make mistakes and had to learn as they went along, they tried to give the impression they actually knew what they were doing, that they were following "the science". At times of crisis people look to their leaders to show them the way and when they don't do that, they look somewhere else.
What's resulted is a growing number of people turning to conspiracy theories, in an attempt to deal with the uncertainty, lack of leadership and not being provided with immediate solutions. There must be something behind all this right? It's the Great Reset! It's a ruse to introduce mass compulsory vaccination by Bill Gates! It's the Illuminati! It's purple lizards from a distant galaxy!.
It's none of those things. What we are being presented with, is an opportunity for deep psychological and spiritual study - of ourselves.
The astrology of the current time gives us an indication of what we are being asked to look at. Astrology, like most things esoteric has been dumbed down and it's real benefits lost under a pile of sun sign horoscopes. I view the planets and constellations as a kind of frequency spectrum, each one having it's own unique energetic qualities that we can use to understand our soul function in this lifetime, what we need to learn, what we need to let go of to break our karmic cycle.
In very simple terms, at the moment we have Pluto, Saturn and Jupiter all together (in conjunction)
Saturn is all about restriction, being held in situations against our best efforts until we learn what we need to, to move on. It represents discipline and staying power, the importance of boundaries and understanding our human limitations.
Jupiter on the other hand, represents expansion and growth, prosperity, higher learning and morality. It's a jovial energy, buoyant and prosperous.
The energy of Pluto is of creative destruction, breaking down old patterns, bringing to the surface all that's hidden (our fears for example).
Collectively, we are all experiencing these energies on an individual, national and international scale. Many of the darker parts of human nature (our shadow selves) are coming out into the open and can be seen in our response to the situation we find ourselves in. It has opened up so much of our society to scrutiny - our view of the elderly and those with "underlying health conditions", our need for certainty and our over reliance on our leaders to show us the way. Our understanding of freedom and how we react when we feel our freedom is being restricted, our work life balance and the importance of employee rights.
But, we are being asked to deal with this pandemic on an individual basis. It's how YOU respond in terms of your own life journey that counts.
What can you do?
On a practical level, if you have money worries, don't leave them to get worse. Cut your cloth where you can, if you have debts piling up, contact the company concerned, they'd much rather you paid something than nothing. You can get some great advice here in this free guide to mental health and debt. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/mental-health-guide/
Our normal social customs around death have been disrupted, funeral homes have been closed, funerals have had to be curtailed, dealing with finances has taken longer than normal. But, even though we have a set process, a set of societal norms, grief and bereavement is still very much an individual thing. Again, if you feel you are struggling, seek help/ I personally have found some people to be incredibly insensitive in their response, because they don't believe COVID is real, or it only kills those who "Would have died anyway". Well, yes, my Mum was 79, she would have died at some point, but she wouldn't have died on that day, nor in those circumstances. Don't be afraid to cut those people out of your life if you can, you need support and there are plenty of like minded people out there who have experienced the same thing - 58.000 deaths to a disease in a few short months, relates to an awful lot of bereaved people, connect with them and know you aren't alone.
As regards uncertainty, this is where a regular spiritual practice such as meditation can really help. Learning to develop trust in your own journey, learning acceptance and the importance of restriction and destruction for spiritual growth will stand you in good stead to weather many storms that come your way. We all chose to be here at this particular time, we all have lessons to learn, things to let go of, cycles to break and new opportunities to create. Mindfulness, learning to live in the present moment can really help, rather than focussing too far into the future, or reliving the past in terms of what could or should have been.
Remember this, all that you need is within you, all you need to do is tap into it, ask for help if you need to and don't waste this time that we have, it will never come again.